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Adams-Stokes syndrome, also known as Stokes-Adams syndrome, is a medical condition that is characterized by episodes of fainting (syncope) due to a sudden and temporary reduction in blood flow to the brain. It is often caused by abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) that disrupt the normal flow of blood through the body, leading to a drop in blood pressure and insufficient oxygen supply to the brain

Adams-Stokes Syndrome [MEDNOTES+MINDMAP]



  • Adams-Stokes Syndrome is a medical condition characterized by episodes of fainting (syncope) due to interruptions in the normal blood flow to the brain.


  • Adams-Stokes Syndrome is relatively rare, with an estimated prevalence of 1-2 cases per 10,000 people.
  • It is more commonly seen in older adults and people with underlying heart conditions.
  • It can occur in both men and women.

Natural history:

  • Adams-Stokes Syndrome is typically a chronic condition, with episodes of fainting occurring periodically.
  • The severity and frequency of these episodes can vary widely among individuals.
  • In some cases, the condition can progress to the point where fainting episodes become more frequent and severe, potentially leading to serious complications such as falls and injury.


  • There are several different types of Adams-Stokes Syndrome, which are classified based on the underlying cause of the condition:
    • Neurocardiogenic syncope: This type of Adams-Stokes Syndrome is caused by a malfunction in the way the brain and heart interact, leading to a temporary reduction in blood flow to the brain.
    • Cardiac syncope: This type of Adams-Stokes Syndrome is caused by an underlying heart condition that disrupts normal blood flow to the brain.
    • Vasovagal syncope: This type of Adams-Stokes Syndrome is caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure and heart rate, which can be triggered by a variety of factors such as standing for a long time, the sight of blood, or emotional stress.

Adam Stokes Syndrome definition natural history epidemiology classification mednotes mindmap

Risk Factors:

  • Previous heart attack or heart surgery
  • Atrial fibrillation (abnormal heart rhythm)
  • Cardiomyopathy (weakened heart muscle)
  • Heart valve problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Drug overdose (e.g. antiarrhythmics, calcium channel blockers)


  • Adams Stokes Syndrome is caused by a sudden drop in blood flow to the brain, due to a heart rhythm disorder or blockage in the heart.


  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slow or no pulse
  • Bluish skin color
  • Shallow breathing


  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion or disorientation

  • Histology/Microscopic Changes

    • Abnormalities in heart tissue, including fibrosis and scarring
    • Inflammation of the heart muscle
    • Abnormal conduction of electrical signals within the heart


  • Pathology/Pathogenesis

    • Caused by underlying cardiac conditions, such as atrial fibrillation or heart block
    • Interruptions in the normal flow of blood through the heart can lead to Adams Stokes syndrome
    • Risk factors include high blood pressure, diabetes, and previous heart attacks


  • Diagnosis/Laboratory Diagnosis

    • Electrocardiogram (ECG) to measure heart function and detect abnormal rhythms
    • Echocardiogram to visualize the heart and assess function
    • Blood tests to check for underlying conditions and measure cardiac markers


  • Tests Required
    • ECG
    • Echocardiogram
    • Blood tests (including cardiac markers)


  • Use of certain medications that can worsen or trigger Adams-Stokes syndrome (e.g. beta blockers, antiarrhythmics)
  • Presence of certain conditions that can increase the risk of Adams-Stokes syndrome (e.g. sick sinus syndrome, atrial fibrillation)

Associated with:

  • Heart conditions (e.g. heart attack, congenital heart disease)
  • Neurological conditions (e.g. multiple sclerosis, stroke)
  • Metabolic conditions (e.g. hypothyroidism, diabetes)
  • Chronic kidney disease

Similar syndromes:

  • Stokes-Adams syndrome
  • Neurocardiogenic syncope


  • Treatment of underlying heart or neurological conditions
  • Avoiding triggers (e.g. standing for long periods, dehydration)
  • Wearing compression stockings to improve blood flow
  • Using medications to regulate heart rhythm


  • Cardioversion or defibrillation to restore normal heart rhythm
  • Medications to regulate heart rhythm
  • Pacemaker insertion to prevent future episodes
  • Treatment of underlying conditions (e.g. heart disease, multiple sclerosis)

Dr. Arin Nandi

Passionate About Medical Science & Helping Future Doctors Achieve Top Ranks In Medical Exams. He is professionally a dentist as well as a public health expert from JIPMER working in department